The City of Toronto has refused to back down on a vaccine mandate for firefighters as organizations and governments across Canada do away with the requirement.
A recent letter by Fire Chief and General Manager Matthew Pegg outlines how firefighters are still required to have one or two shots of a Covid vaccine despite a lengthy arbitration with unvaccinated firefighters.
“The discipline issued to you as a result of non-compliance with the policy shall be removed from your record and your lost service and seniority will be restored,” explains Pegg.
“However, until such time as you provide proof of full vaccination in accordance with the policy or until further notice to you, you shall remain out of the workplace on a leave without pay or benefits, and your status as a city of Toronto employee will remain.”
The letter comes after 13 unvaccinated firefighters won a ruling which declared that the city acted in an unreasonable manner by firing those who refused to get the shot.
“The arbitrator upheld the City’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy as a reasonable exercise of the city’s management rights” city spokesperson Brad Ross told the Toronto Sun.
“The arbitrator found that the city was justified in requiring that a firefighter be vaccinated with two doses in order to report for work in [Toronto Fire Services]. The arbitrator also determined that the policy was reasonable at the time that it was introduced, and further found that the policy continues to be reasonable.”
“While the arbitrator said the discharge of firefighters who refused to be vaccinated was, in effect, automatic and accordingly, unreasonable, the policy still stands. The arbitrator did not order the city to automatically reinstate the firefighters to active duty, though they have now been reactivated as city of Toronto employees,” he continued.
In comparison, Toronto Police Service officers who were unvaccinated have been allowed to return back to work while other first responders like firefighters have not.
The Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association has not responded to the Fire Chief’s letter to unvaccinated staff.
“Mayor Tory supports the City’s vaccination policy — a policy which the arbitrator in this case upheld as reasonable,” Mayor John Tory’s spokesperson Lawvin Hadisi told the outlet.
“The Mayor has always supported our first responders and is thankful that 99% of City employees, including first responders, got vaccinated. He believes this helped ensure we could maintain frontline services throughout the pandemic.”